business tips

Small Business: Canadian Business Structures Explained

Four Common Canadian Business Structures Explained

When starting a business it is important to adequately explore the options available. Will it be owned and operated by one or by many? Will it be incorporated or not?

The process can be a little unnerving, for that reason we have provided a detailed summary of the various Canadian Business Structures available:

 

Canadian Business Structures Dissected:

1. Sole Proprietorship (Single Owner)

In this structure, you as an individual own 100% of the profits created. However responsibity for all business related obligations including debts, are also yours.  A creditor can issue a claim against not only your business assets, but also your personal assets, in order to fulfill a debt.

Pros:

  • This is the easiest form of business to begin, you simply need to register your business name provincially (note that this does not apply for Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • It is quite inexpensive in comparison to other options.
  • You have sole control over the direction and decisions of the business.
  • The number of regulatory commitments is minimal.
  • The amount of capital required is greatly reduced.
  • All of the profits belong to you.
  • There are tax advantages, including deduction of losses from your personal income and a lower tax bracket.

Cons:

  • No limit to liability, in other words ALL of your assets (including personal) can be taken to pay off your business debts.
  • If your business is profitable you may find yourself in a higher tax bracket (income is taxable at your personal rate).
  • The burden of start-up capital is carried solely by you.
  • As sole owner, vacation time and absenteeism may affect your business.

Partnerships are a second option for business start-ups

2. Partnerships (Two Owners)

Partnerships allow the benefit of multiple owners, without having to incorporate your business. Partnerships allow for combined financial support. Partnerships mean you will be splitting profits. Keep in mind that you may not always see eye to eye and a business agreement is highly recommended.

This business agreement should be drawn up with the aid of a lawyer in order to ensure:

  • First and foremost to ensure you meet the requirements for a partnership.
  • That your interests are protected.
  • The terms surrounding profits, growth, job details and absolving of partnership etc. are clearly defined.

The option exists to form a limited liability partnership, wherein you or your partner can choose to not take part in the control or management, but remain liable for debts.

Pros:

  • Partnerships, again, are relatively easy to start-up.
  • Work load and requirements are split up.
  • Tax advantages in that the income of the business is split between you and your partner when submitting your individual tax return.
  • Financial requirements, including start-up capital are shared.

Cons:

  • As with Sole Proprietorship, your personal assets can still be seized to pay of business debts.
  • There is no legal separation between you and your business.
  • Finding a suitable partner is difficult.
  • Business can result in many conflicts between partners and can result is damaged relationships.
  • You are responsible for your partners business actions. Their broken contracts, unfulfilled orders etc. are your issue as well.

3. Cooperatives (Multiple Owners)

The least common of business types, a cooperative is owned by an association of members.  This type of business is appropriate in situations where three or more people or businesses are determined to pool resources. They may choose to do this in provide access to common needs. Things like product deliveries, services, sales, employment, marketing etc.

Pros:

  • Liability is shared
  • Multiple resources.
  • Work load and requirements are split up.
  • Democratic decision making.

Cons:

  • Member conflicts based on business.
  • Member conflicts based on personalities.
  • Decisions can take time to make.
  • All members my play an equal part to succeed.
  • Thorough records and reports must be kept.
  • Additional capital is less likely to be offered.

More information

Want more information on this? Check out these links:

4. Corporations (Legal Separation Of Personal & Business)

Incorporating your business at either a provincial or federal level  is a third option. By incorporating a business, you are creating a legal separation between it and its owners (or shareholders). This means you are not responsible, personally, for business debts, business obligations, or corporate actions.

This is not a decision to take lightly and should be made only with proper legal counsel.

Pros:

  • Financial liability is limited.
  • The business becomes a separate legal entity.
  • Transferable ownership.
  • Continuous existence.
  • Capital is far easier to raise.
  • Incorporated businesses can be subject to lower taxes.

Cons:

  • High regulations on corporations.
  • Incorporating can be expensive.
  • Paperwork. Corporate records must be kept. This includes shareholder and director. meetings, and annually filed documentation with the government.
  • Issues with residency of director.
  • Shareholders and director conflicts.

More information:

Thinking of incorporating or simply want to know more? Visit Guide to Federal Incorporation

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

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Small Business Supporting Small Business

Small Business Needs?

Shop-local-support-okanagan-small-business

First rule of small business: Shop Local.

Recently there was an ad on the local radio for the UPS Small Business Store. According to this advertisement, this is the store you go to for all of your small business needs.

I found that interesting. I also found it a little conflicting. It may be an old fashioned notion, but it is our belief that small businesses need to stick together, support one another and keep it local whenever possible.

This notion was reinforced this past weekend as I stopped to chat with Randy Derksen of Sunridge DeSigns in Armstrong, BC.

Sunridge DeSigns embodies everything we love about small business. Made up of a husband and wife duo, Randy and Debi have built Sunridge from the ground up. They are involved in local initiatives and charitable groups and they are active members in the local Chamber of Commerce (supplying signs ranging from print to sandblasted, to the local small businesses). What is more, their work is good – VERY GOOD.

Randy and I spoke at length about the local community, the support and the overall zeitgeist of local business in the Okanagan, BC.

Obviously the last few years had been a challenge.  As the economy tightened, so had advertising budgets. Yet what was interesting to note, Randy pointed out, was that throughout all of it, a change in mindset had begun to appear. More small businesses were returning to sourcing their work locally, instead of purchasing online or from big box stores.

Image source: Hyperlocal101.com

Small Business Supporting Small Business.

There has been a push for businesses to save money via online sourcing. They are encouraged to source their designs, print work, web work, and advertising materials from online sites that promise monetary savings.

Saving money is a good thing. Small Business budgets are often… well, small.

However there are costs to sourcing work out this way. You may save a few pennies per card or get a logo dirt cheap, but consider these points.

  • Small Business is built on relational and community business. Spend money locally and it will always find its way back to you. Source work locally and they will return the favour.
  • On the flip side, source work and spend your budget online, you will never see that favour returned.
  • Source locally and one enters a conversation, the beginnings of a relationship, with that business. Relationships develop repeat business opportunities. Sourcing online provides no such opportunities.
  • Source a logo online for cheap and you will get what you pay for. Branding is not something to leave to chance. A logo speaks about your business, it defines you, it is the visual stimulus that will remain in the consumers mind. Should this be sourced out to the lowest bidder?
  • Keep in mind that just because it is online does not necessarily mean it is cheaper. Always source pricing locally to compare.  Unless the savings are significant and cannot be beaten, supporting local is always the way to go.

As Randy pointed out, it has been encouraging to see a return to the “100 mile” mindset, of supporting local. Small businesses need to support one another, build community and develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Small Business thrives off of community, it thrives off of the local population. There is a different manner of thinking for small business owners, and it is that manner of thinking that defines small business as a whole.

We support local and are pleased and proud to do it.  What are your thoughts about sourcing locally?

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

13 Small Business Marketing & Sales Tips

Small Business is full of challenges, yet there are many tools and strategies available for success. Below we outline 13 tips to help the small businessman move from surviving to thriving.

13 Small Business Marketing & Sales Tips

Developing a business plan is a must for any small business.

1. Develop A Business Plan. This is absolutely key and not as difficult as you may think. A business plan can (and should) consist of a budget outline, current customer base, current marketing/advertising efforts, current strengths and weaknesses, target markets, areas of high potential and the methods/mediums available to reach targets and high potential areas.

Or more simply put. It should be made up of reasonable goals for your company, the ways available for achieving these goals, the resources available and then a final plan, and a scheduled outline for moving forward.

2. Make It A Long Term One. Every small business is constrained by the almighty budget.

Take some time to determine the areas of easiest and greatest potential gain. Isolate the best prospects for your business then determine how best to access them. Set your goals, make them achievable then proceed.

The key to achieving market goals is to remain consistent in your marketing. Find a plan that works with your resources, budget and availability then stick to it. If you are not certain how best to go about this, many tips and articles (such as the one you are reading) exist.

Or you can contact specialists who can sit down with you and hammer out the right – individualized – strategy for your specific business. You would be surprise how cost effective this can be.

3. Separating Sales & Profits. There are two types of money for the small businessman. Cash & Profits.

  • When you make a sale you make Cash.
  • When you make a sale at more than your overall cost, you make a Profit.

Typically speaking many small businesses have a primary focus on making sales and bringing in cash – a necessary and intelligent step if you wish to survive and maintain a roof over your head.

To move forward as a business however, cash must begin becoming profits. Profits allow businesses to not just exist but to grow. The small business man must analyze where the greatest profit potential lies and develop a plan of attack. These plans can take many forms, and are a necessity for success.

Business sourcing is increasingly shifting to online searches. Is your business visible online?

4. Free Online Listings. Working under the assumption that you already have a website (necessary!) Get yourself listed with Search Engines and get found.

It is said that 97% of consumers search for businesses online. I know that I do. With the advent of mobile technology, online searching has surged. If you are a small business online, increasing your presence is a must. If you are a small business not online – get online!

As Small Businesses we cannot afford to lose even one customer. Creating and then increasing an online presence ensures YOUR business is what turns up when customers are searching.

For things like Search Engine registration no technical expertise is needed. Here are a few good starting points:

  1. Google Business Listings
  2. Google Places
  3. Bing business portal
  4. Foursquare
  5. Yahoo Local
  6. Yelp Claim Your Business

5. Cold Calling Is Not Dead. So unless you are, hit the road. Make the sales calls, contact the prospects and be regimented in doing so. Again, set goals for yourself – three cold calls a day, eight in a week, whatever it is, stick to it.

Build a list of targets – who they are, what they do and why they should be interested in you. Treat it like a job interview, research your prospect and be ready to answer questions. Have at least three reasons they should look to you.

Start with high potential clients first then work your way down. Yes it may seem scary, however it gets easier with time – remember YOU have value for your customers and you know it, therefore YOUR goal is nothing more than to demonstrate that. Don’t focus on selling (it is cheesy) explain and relate – you will see higher success.

6. Keep Following Up. Do not be irritating – but keep your business in clear view of your customers. Remind consumers you are there. Do not barrage them, keep in mind however, that even if they want to purchase from you – they may not necessarily remember you. Stay visible. Follow up.

Survival: All of your marketing exposure, engagement, goodwill and efforts need to lead to one thing – making the sale. Remember that you want more than just the one sale – you want the customer for life.

7. Close The Deal. None of these tips matter if the deal doesn’t go through. Marketing in itself is a means to gain the sale. Yes it creates brand awareness and increases business to consumer visibility, however if it does not result in a sale your business won’t last long.

You need your customers to make the purchase. There are good and bad ways of going about this. Engaging them, building relations, and creating brand trust are all a part of this.

Provide your customers with a strong “call to action” in your Marketing. Provide incentives to solidify the deal sooner. Give them a reason to sign the dotted line.

Don’t be abrasive, but personally and directly ask to take the order and finalize the sale.

8. The Rule Of “Return & Refer”. The rule is simple: If you satisfy a customer, they will return to you and refer you to others. Gaining these two favours is a top priority for any business. Satisfy your customer, then look to them for the repeat business.

Never assume they will remember you years later, so make an impression at the start. Go the extra mile and win their loyalty.

9. Market To Prior Customers (Repeat Business). A solid part of any small business marketing strategy is targeting current and former customers. The first preliminary sale should be considered not the end, but the beginning of your business transaction with a consumer.

Good first impression notwithstanding, not all customers will remember a business name so “market to remind”. Repeat sales typically take less effort and resources to secure compared to going out and winning new accounts – this factors into turning cash into profits. A good portion of a businesses profits will come from these repeat customers.

Make sure your business is still visible to your customers from three years ago.

Image source: Followyourcustomer.com

10. Get A Contact Management System. Every small business needs an organized system for managing business contacts. With mobile and cloud technology it is becoming increasingly easy to setup an online system, accessible from just about anywhere.

You will never need to be without your little black book again. Consider a few of these options:

  1. MS Outlook Integrated System
  2. Salesforce.com
  3. Prophet (By Avidian)
  4. FollowYourCustomer.com

11. Shop Local, Shop Small. If every one of your customers suddenly began making their purchases at the big box stores or online, how would you feel?

That is how the small businesses in your community feel as well.

  • Support your local small business community and they will support you.
  • Build relations with other businesses and make your purchases locally whenever possible.
  • Avoid making the purchases online. Yes there are some deals that cannot be turned away, however small businesses cannot survive if all they are, are showrooms for online retail.

You reap what you sow. Want the community to support you business? Then support them first.

12. Use Social Media. First off Social Media is not going to directly make you profits. Social Media is, in itself, not the means to make the sale.

It is however:

  1. A primary means of increasing online presence.
  2. A direct TWO WAY line of communication with customers.
  3. A monitoring feed for following trends, communications and competitors.

Social Media is a free resource, but as with any Marketing avenue, should be approached with a plan.

  1. Who will post on behalf of your business?
  2. What will they post?
  3. How often will they post?
  4. Who are they targetting?
  5. Why are they targetting them?
  6. How are they to handle direct feedback and/or criticism?

It may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t that scary. Simply sit down and answer each of those questions in turn until the strategy is in place. We also recommend checking out a few of our previous posts on Social Media Marketing:

13. Create An Annual Newsletter Utilizing Cloud Services. We have mentioned newsletters before, however they bare repeating. They are a prime tool for budget friendly Marketing.

No a newsletter does not need to be boring. It is simply put “news”. Broadcast sales info, new products, customer stories… the options are endless – as are the sites that can facilitate this.

  1. Mail Chimp
  2. Constant Contact
  3. Vertical Response
  4. Emma

Now-a-days, by utilizing a cloud service you have access to built-in analytics – that is information on “opens” and “click-throughs” etc. Which is highly useful for monitoring your efforts and the results.

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds.

We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

16 Tips For Marketing On A Budget

Image Source: smallbiztrends.com

Clever Marketing Does Not Need To Always Be Expensive.

Small Business owners seldom have the budget for glitzy or high profile marketing and advertising. Small Business marketing often needs to be as unique and specialized as the business it represents. Here are a few tips for Marketing on a budget.

1. Get On Board With Your Local Press. Most local news outlets have resources available for the local small business community:

  • 1. You can go with a standard ad.
  • 2. A classified ad (billed per word).
  • 3. Issue a press release. A press release is a great way to get free exposure in the local media.

Check with your local papers and see what they have in place.

2. Support A Local Charity Or Campaign. This is something businesses should do either way, however by getting on board with community initiatives you can get a great deal of (positive) free exposure.

You gain terrific PR, build relationships within the local community and lend support to those in need. This is the type of Marketing that truly builds a brand.

3. Sponsor A Local Sports Team. This refers back to supporting local charities or campaigns. It is an excellent way to boost community relations and branding. Just about any amateur team would be glad to don your logo for the cost of a jersey.

It can be a great way to build contacts and good will with parents, athletes and athletics supporters.

4. Local & Online Business Directories. The Yellow Pages are still a consistent resource for most local consumers. Many communities will also have their own local business directory. These can be inexpensive means with which to ensure consistent exposure, primarily to people looking for local and specific services.

There is an slew of online directories available as well, however these should be researched and explored according to their relevance for your industry, your geographic region and their results in search engines.

Bulletin Boards are a free place to post your advertising. They should be utilized with thought towards how they will portray your brand.

5. Use Free Cork/Bulletin Boards. The one caution with this, is to be mindful of how an ad and its placement portrays a business and brand. One can place a printed ad on almost any community cork board – typically free of charge – however they need to be mindful of how it represents the company.

  • Make sure it is a professional and clean ad – it should portray professionalism and associate the business with experience.
  • Place it nicely – square it up, fasten the corners, keep it neat. Don’t slap a thumbtack off centre and call it a day – that looks shoddy.
  • Make it catchy – corkboards fill up fast and typically wind up cluttered. The ad needs to stand out and grab attention.
  • Monitor it – It will eventually wind up behind other posts and ad’s. If this happens it will look dated. Cycle it out with new ad’s to keep it fresh and ensure it is at the top. Many billboard owners like a date placed somewhere on the ad to indicate it’s age (this enables them to clear dated posts) work with them and help them maintain the board.

6. Hand Out Business Cards To Everyone. In the age of online and social media, printed mediums are still highly relevant and nothing reinforces your word-of-mouth campaign like business cards. They are inexpensive and easy to keep on your person at all times.

Typically they print in groups of 250, 500, 1000, 2000 – with costs being reduced with each increase in quantity. Keep in mind that 250 cards can last a long time, so do not be afraid to hand them out and hand out more than one. When we meet with clients we will typically hand them three or four cards, this provides for their misplacing them or handing them out to colleagues.

Business cards are one of those items you want to revise every once in awhile. Hand them out while they are fresh and you will not have a bunch of obsolete cards when you revise your information.

7. Let Fly The Flyers! Going back to the relevance of printed materials, a flyer is a great (inexpensive) way to draw attention from the local community. Included in papers, door to door, or exchanged with other businesses along with business cards – they can increase brand awareness and draw attention to your services.

This ties in nicely with posting free Corkboard ad’s as flyer’s can be utilized also for this purpose.

8. Product Placement / Venue Exchanges. Brand yourself publicly at events and venues with product and logo placement.

Example: If you are a DJ make sure you have a banner, flyers, business cards and wear a shirt with your logo – brand yourself to the public. The amount of business that can be procured at a wedding, by a good photographer or DJ is incredible. Don’t ruin the wedding by networking, but be prepared if guests come to you for information.

9. Hand Out Branded Swag! Whatever your budget may be, there is a Merchandising manufacturer out there that can accommodate, so get some merch’ and hand it out! Useful items like pens, shirts, hats, mugs etc. will get used and make their way around.

As with all other materials, put some thought into type of “swag” that matters to your industry and have some fun making it. The more creative and relevant the merchandise, the more likely it will see use.

People love gifts, it is a great way to establish relations and create a positive experience for your clients. As with business cards, hand them out frequently and freely.

(Hint: Make sure the pens are decent quality – shoddy pens quickly find their way to the bottom of the bin)

Drive your marketing! Vehicle decals and wraps are cost effective and guarantee exposure. Image Source: indepthwraps.com

10. Decal Your Vehicle. Hank Yarbo of late Corner Gas fame exemplifies this concept in a rather unique way with his “Hank Board

A personal vehicle is literally a moving canvas. Brand it with decals and graphics and it effectively becomes a billboard wherever you find yourself. There are a number of businesses that offer this service – the price versus the advertising exposure makes this a top value option.

11. Advertising On Public Transit. Depending on the communities mass transit infrastructure, there can be many advertising spaces available in buses, taxis and trains. Check with your local transit authorities, these spaces can be surprisingly inexpensive.

12. Join Online Networking Communities. LinkedIn is likely the top source for these type of groups. By connecting with groups relevant to specific industries and the local community, one can gain both, an audience and dialogue opportunities.

13. Trade Shows. Local trade shows can be a great way to boost both, customer awareness and client engagement. For the price of a booth or table, one gains the opportunity to network with relevant, and local, small business groups and individuals.

14. Socialize With Media (Social Media). Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, there are numerous online avenues that (at no charge) provide the opportunity to increase online presence and engage customers, both current and potential.

(Hint: Visit blog posts on “Social Media Engagement” or “How To Find A Good Social Media Specialist” for more information on this)

15. Reward Your Current Customers. Build goodwill with the current customer base and the word of mouth campaign will pay back the efforts a thousand times over. Offer incentives, “swag” (see tip 9) and insider info.

16. Web Updates. Basic web updates can be a great, cost effective way to keep customers interested and coming back. Fresh content, news and designs are the means for consistent engagement. One should never underestimate the value of increasing online traffic and engaging the online audience.

No matter what size the business, customers need to be communicated with. There are many inexpensive and effective marketing avenues available – if you know where to look.

Small Businesses have several key advantages over their larger competitors. Recognizing and leveraging them can drastically impact success.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.


The Delicate Art Of Engaging Customers

Branding is all powerful, in an ever changing world the ability to brand is hinging more and more on the ability to engage customers. Social Media is one primary means of doing this, but what do you do when a customer engages you with tough questions or questionable attitude?

FIRST: The Foreshadowing.

My wife and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day Sunday this past weekend. I muddled through making her breakfast, we attempted a hike up Rose Swanson Mountain here in Armstrong and more or less enjoyed the bright Okanagan sunshine. Nearing the end of the day we were feeling relaxed and more than a little lethargic. The thing with Armstrong is that it is tiny and tiny towns often lack many of the amenities of big cities – including family restaurants open past five o’clock. There are a few nice pubs, but they frown on bringing in an 18 month old so we decided we would simply order some take-out and eat on the patio at home. We placed our order at the local pub and then went to the park to chill until it was ready. I ordered the biggest sloppiest burger available, while my wife settled on the Greek Wrap (carefully described in the menu as being loaded with Greek vegetables). When we got our food home, we discovered that, aside from the normal tomato, lettuce and black olives, the “Greek” wrap was made up of shredded carrots, radishes and purple cabbage. We are not culinary snobs by any stretch, but we were a little dumbfounded by their definition of “Greek” Vegetables. A quick search of vegetable origins found the following information:

  • Radishes – Originate in China.
  • Carrots – Originate in Afhganistan (along with Parsnips).
  • Cabbage – Originate in either Sweden & Poland (or both).

Now yes, I get that the Greeks we a singular golden culture, and that their empire did indeed stretch across europe under the reign of Alexander the Great. I was not, however, aware that carrots and radishes were considered “Greek”. I laughed a little as I thought of a couple of quips I could post to their Facebook page (if they had a Facebook page). That lead me to think about how they might respond, which in turn lead me to think about how I would respond if I were them. One thing lead to another and now we have this blog.

Second: The Crux – Customer Engagement

Actual customer engagement tests your brand promises.

Customer Service, for many businesses, is the front line for brand image. It is where Brand promises are put to the test and in many cases it is the first “real” engagement that customers are going to have with any business brand. This can be where many large businesses lose out, but where small business can excel. The larger the company, the more people represent it and the more difficult it can be to maintain a consistent Brand message. Disconnects can occur between employees of the same department (IE Customer Service Reps answering differently to the same question) They can also occur between departments (IE Sales making promised that After Sales cannot deliver on). Larger companies tend to source out their service departments. As such there is less of a personal stake in the response and care offered. The service reps are often underpaid, understaffed, under trained and under the gun to respond according to pre-scripted operating procedures. Lack of knowledge and lack of flexibility in your service department is a big problem. Answers need to be quick, thorough and above all RELEVANT. When I call in I do not want to hold for twenty minutes listening to commercials promoting your outstanding service – that makes me bitter and sarcastic. I do not want to speak to a rep who knows less about the product than I do and I want to be able to understand what the rep is saying. Lastly I do not need a blanket response, or corporate run-around… I want an answer to my problem, my SPECIFIC problem. If you want to build a strong brand, build a strong service department. This is where small business has some advantages – there is a personal stake and a more direct line with the people to whom the business (and customers) matter. It is more consistent and more urgent. I call to a local small business and I am likely to get a response from someone who believes I matter. I am not just a drop in the bucket for those who can count their clients on their hands, and often know them by name. Engage me and I will be a customer for life. I still send my business to the little guys for that reason. I have relationships with these people, with their businesses – relationships built on previous service, honesty and faith, relationships that surpass the bottom dollar. Engaged customers are willing to overlook the occasional blunder or hiccup. They are willing to work WITH you and once engaged they will follow your brand the distance – and that is what branding is all about.

Third: Customer Engagement 2.0

Social Media acts as a magnifying glass for this engagement. For many customers it is easier to post to Facebook or Twitter then to call in. It is also quicker than the traditional means of email or snail mail, which means more emotion is included in the message and less time can be taken in structuring a response. Let’s go back to the story of the Greek wrap that wasn’t Greek. Hypothetically, let’s say that I posted to their Facebook page “Hey _____ Pub, I ordered a Greek wrap, not a Inter-European/Asian wrap – Carrots & Radishes are not Greek!” How would you respond? How would you expect a business to respond? Am I kidding around with this statement?, am I being belligerent?, am I being a troll? and how can you be sure? How do you engage the customer in a situation like this? Do it wrong and it will cost you. Do it correctly and it will promote you. Social Media requires fun, amiable, personable, creative, quick and professional direction. Those representing your business need to love people and dance on coals. The term “Social Media Ninja” is about as cliche as “Social Media Guru”, but Ninja fits the bill – keep watch, be quick, adapt and engage. Social Media is not just for big business, many small businesses are beginning to utilize it and the I’ll leave you with this nifty example of someone trolling Taco Bell, and Taco Bell’s subsequent response.

How you engage customer via Social Media Channels can drastically impact your brand.

Notice that they engaged not only the sender, but their entire audience, by not only going along with the joke, but coming out on top. They even utilized hash tags to further both the joke and their commanding statement. In this case context was made evident by the name of the sender (Men’s Humor) and the hashtag. It is not always so clear, and misinterpreting it can be costly. But, as this example shows, doing it right can have amazing results.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

Is What You Are Saying, Really What They Are Hearing?

The Art Of Communication

When I was younger I did some studies in the area of Hermeneutics.

No that is not a biological study and it has little to do with Hermits.

It is in fact the science of accurately interpreting communications that have crossed social & cultural borders, often over prolonged periods of time.

My studies mostly pertained to literature – the written word. For example, what was Cervantes actually communicating, given the period and the culture of his time.

However a large portion of it dealt with the overall concept of communication. One key point that has always stuck with me, was the truth that for every communication, whether it is a spoken sentence, a text message, an email…the accuracy of it is at the mercy of the medium and the receiver.

Put more clearly, for basic communication to occur there are three parts:

  1. The Sender.
  2. The Message (including the medium: as Marshall McLuhan proved, the medium relates symbiotically with the message, influencing how the message is perceived).
  3. The Receiver.

The sender has a set communication and thought that is being put forward. That communication is influenced by the medium in which it is sent. Spoken communication is far more accurate than written communication, thanks to tone, intonations and body language (if their hands are around your throat it likely means anger). “Emoticons” 🙂 notwithstanding, the written word can be far more difficult to qualify. We have all enjoyed mis-communications related to texts or emails.

Is what you are saying actually what is being heard?
Image Source: Churchleaders.com

So the sender has put forth a thought and done their best to communicate it thoroughly within the chosen medium. Now the receiver is going to take in that message based on their pre-conceptions, background, relationship with the sender and the medium (including their own perception OF that medium). Each of these aspects plays a roll in how the communication is interpreted, and can be altered by things such as their culture or age.

The effectiveness of the communication will rely on the sender’s abilities and skills, as well as their knowledge of the recipient (or their audience). It will also rely on the restrictions of the medium in which it was sent and finally, on the dynamics of the receiver.

You cannot control the background of your recipient, their pre-conceived notions or ideas. However you can work with their background and preconceptions – and that is where the relationship between you becomes so important.

Accurate communication becomes easier as relationships develop (which is why literature spanning centuries can be a puzzle)

For example: If I receive a message saying “what were you thinking” from my wife, I will take it a certain way, based on my relationship with her. If I receive the same message from my employer…I am going to take it another way (and probably update my resume).

What does this mean and why is it on our blog? Because as simple as the concept here may be, it is often overlooked when developing emails, social media blasts and publications. It is also one of the single biggest challenges to the cold call.

Communication gets easier as relationships develop. Image Source: Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

When developing your communications, whether mass, niche or personal and whether to customers, professionals, family or friends – acknowledging the personality of the receivers can save you.

Small Business especially can thrive by being more personable with their communications.

  1. Don’t email or text clients who don’t like email and texts, unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Don’t force your customers to meet you on the medium you are comfortable with – go to them.
  3. Test your communications. If you are emailing, make sure it shows up properly when opened. If Social Media blasting – check how it is viewed across platforms. If publicly speaking, run the message by some test subjects.
  4. Make phone calls, visit locations, shake hands and try to establish a more personal presence. As one fellow blogger put it: “be their white knight”. It is an error to rely only on emails and tweets.
  5. When putting together your campaigns, consider your audience and look at separating them into groups based on the most relevant medium. Email distro lists, Social Media lists, Phone lists…. whatever makes the most sense.
  6. Consider who you are sending to when developing content. Don’t joke about sending a case of beer if they are on the wagon. Hit them up with content that you know they can relate to. Remember that episode of the office where Michael and Andy do their cold call together? Michael meets the client on the common ground of fishing, while Andy blitzes on by with an obviously false story about shooting a shark from the rigging of his dad’s boat.
  7. Provide examples. Link to content or provide images and references. There is often content already out there that can reinforce your idea, look for relevant materials and share them to help present your point.
  8. Develop that relationship. Touch base consistently. Listen to them and build your relationship based what they tell you. Customers will tell you what it takes to get them on board – if you are willing to listen.
  9. Be fun, give the customers a reason to want to talk to you, make the communication and enjoyable experience. Camaraderie anyone?

Communication – Effective Communication – Requires effort, it requires time and it requires diligence, however there is no greater means of securing client faith.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

SCHEDULING POSTS VERSUS HUMAN INTERACTION

I recently came across this lovely blog from Seth Sparks and I felt the need to share it and also voice my thoughts on it.

Are Scheduled Posts Too Insincere

This entry was posted on April 26, 2012, in Marketing/Advertising and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment

I just listened to a relationship expert on the Today Show talking about the most common complaint of of his women patients: that their men don’t text enough.

His solution for men facing the relationship issue, was to utilize a service that would let you plug in all your texts (to said woman) in the morning and it would automate the sending of the messages at the time of your choosing. Immediately I thought to myself, how disingenuous is a scheduled text telling your partner you love them. It’s so fake and emotionless.

Then, as always my mind turned down a similar path. What about businesses that schedule their messages. If you are a business, are the messages you’re sending so bland that just throwing them out there at random times is good enough? Or are even your scheduled posts filled with enough genuine emotion that it will still resonate with your audience even if its scheduled weeks in advance?

Relationships are the fundamental goal of social marketing, but audiences are getting better and better at distinguishing dishonesty, and drawing closer to companies that are credible, and genuine in each and every message. If you’re scheduling all of your “I love you” messages, you’re likely not exhibiting a brand that will draw in long-lasting customers.

I could not agree more – Social Media has created a need for credibility, legitimacy and care. Seth touches on a very crucial issue here. A friend on mine and I were chatting just last night about the insatiable hunger that our would as developed for AUTHENTICITY – People don’t want to be fed just another line, they want “real”. The brands that get that and offer credible products and services will be the ones to rise to the top.

I would say this relationship “expert” should pursue a different career path perhaps as a politician?

I personally see some merit in scheduled tweets etc. for BUSINESS purposes, however it needs to be blended WELL with actual live interactions on the Social Media Platforms.

Social Media has emerged as a manner in which to dialogue with customers and partners – it is changing the way we do business. To schedule your blasts and not actually take a “relational” position also, relegates your Social Media Platform to the status of a glorified billboard.

“Billboard tactics” do not work on Social Media Platforms. They can be integrated into a broader strategy, but they cannot stand alone.

What are your thoughts?